Christmas time's a-comin', and we all know what that means... Christmassy films on telly, on the hour, every hour. (And, sure, the celebration of the birth of Jesus. But you can't get that on Freeview.)
Christmas films may have different plots, characters and sickly sweet "that's the real meaning of Christmas" happy endings, but they all have one thing in common: if you try hard enough, you can probably extract some kind of tenuous Christian theme. And if you're really lucky – and feeling particularly mentally dextrous – you can no doubt find an entire allegory for the life and death of Jesus contained within a 90-minute schmaltz fest.
Here are five films you can put on the box this Yuletide season, answering any queries as to why you're watching them with: "Well, the thing is, there's an argument for the redemptive narrative arc of this piece being symbolic of the way in which we are all ultimately redeemed by the cross and the transformative power of God's love made flesh in the sacrifice of His only Son." Then smile condescendingly and shove a mince pie in your face.
1. The Muppet Christmas Carol
Why watch: It has singing Muppets. And Michael Caine. And Gonzo as Charles Dickens. Did I mention the singing Muppets?
Loose Christian theme: The ultimate redemption story, second only to Les Mis. The fact that 90 per cent of the cast are riotously coloured puppets who break into song every five minutes doesn't detract from the essentials of the story – old angry, bitter man undergoes a transformative experience and is changed through repentance, forgiveness and love. Ebenezer Scrooge becomes a good Christian man, represented by the fact he buys the biggest turkey in the shop on Christmas Day and gives it to a poor employee, who happens to be a frog. (Let it be noted that Scrooge is also supporting local businesses in this act of generosity: always an important message.)
2. It's a Wonderful Life
Why watch: It's got Jimmy Stewart at his absolute best, a genuinely heartwarming plot, and for all the You've Been Framed fans out there, a scene where lots of people at the school prom fall into a swimming pool.
Loose Christian theme: At his lowest ebb, when he considers ending it all, the main character, George Bailey, is saved by an angel. I mean, this guy doesn't beat around the bush – he just comes straight out and says he's an angel. You don't even have to read into it symbolically or anything. Job done.
3. Miracle on 34th Street
Why watch: Don't let the most saccharine of all child actors put you off. Yes, Mara Wilson, who plays the leading little girl, is lisping like it's going out of fashion, but Richard Attenborough is the most twinkly of twinkly-eyed Santa Clauses, and there's a dastardly shop manager and an alcoholic Father Christmas in cahoots trying to bring him down. Ooh, dark...
Loose Christian theme: Oh boy, this one offers up a whole range of opportunities. Kris Kringle (Richard Attenborough) is raised up and loved by the masses, only for them to turn on him when he's arrested and put on trial. Sound familiar?
Also, the reason he gets out of being put in a mental asylum is because of the words, "In God we trust" printed on the American $1 bill. The argument being that if the US Treasury can believe in God with no hard evidence, then the people of New York can believe in Santa Claus. Basically, Christianity saves the day!
Why watch: Will Ferrell. That's it.
Loose Christian theme: An elf in human form goes to earth to experience life as we do. He is at odds with society and countercultural in his attitudes and behaviour towards people, because his actions are motivated by an all-encompassing love and kindness. BOOM. (The analogy pretty much ends there – don't mention him wearing curly shoes or getting it on with Zooey Deschanel.)
5. Home Alone
Why watch: Oh, because it's only the BEST CHRISTMAS FILM EVER MADE. In my unbiased opinion. Cracking soundtrack too.
Loose Christian theme: Um. Right. Let's say Macaulay Culkin is symbolic of Jesus...er...saving his house, ie humanity, from robbers, ie sin, which he does by sacrificing his Christmas baubles, ie his life...?